“Stripped Down” AB 693 Clears Assembly Committee

By John Forester | February 20, 2018

Earlier today, the Assembly Committee on Judiciary passed a “stripped down” version of Assembly Bill 693, the so-called Teacher Protection Act.  Assembly Substitute Amendment 2 (ASA 2) to AB 693 cleared the Committee on a party-line vote.

ASA 2 would provide for the right of a teacher to terminate his/her employment, without penalty, if the teacher is the victim of a “physical assault” or a violent crime under certain conditions.  The SAA opposes ASA 2 as detailed in our Memo to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

AB 693, as amended by ASA 2, has already been scheduled for Assembly floor action on Thursday.  The SAA continues to work the bill in both houses.  Stay tuned.

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Key Issues Regarding the Early College Credit Program

By John Forester | February 14, 2018

From the Legal Side . . .

As the end of the 2017-18 school year approaches, many school district officials have turned their attention toward a new program that will be in effect next school year: the Early College Credit Program (ECCP).  A new Legal Update from Strang Patteson addresses specific issues involved in the implementation of the ECCP.

The SAA regularly receives these legal updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of Strang Patteson.

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SAA Priorities Easily Clear the Assembly

By John Forester | February 14, 2018

During floor action yesterday, the SAA’s two biggest priorities for the remainder of the legislative session cleared the Assembly easily.  Assembly Bill 805, the concurrent enrollment fix, passed on a voice vote while Assembly Bill 835, relating to increasing sparsity aid and the low revenue ceiling for school districts, passed on a 91-2 vote.

Both bills now move on to the Senate with significant momentum.  If you have questions or need additional information on these two bills, please contact the SAA office.  Stay tuned.

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Special Needs Voucher Costs to Triple Next Year

By John Forester | February 12, 2018

Check out this news story from Annyssa Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Special needs voucher costs are expected to triple next year.  Quotes from Superintendents Driver and Myrah.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/education/2018/02/12/wisconsin-voucher-program-special-needs-students-expected-triple-next-year/316450002/

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JFC Unanimously Approves Amended AB 835/SB 690

By John Forester | February 9, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

The Joint Finance Committee unanimously approved a plan to boost state aid for small, rural school by $6.5 million and allow low-spending districts to collect more in property taxes.

While members voted 16-0 for the bill, the debate became a series of exchanges over education funding since the end of Dem Gov. Jim Doyle’s term. There also were jabs on Foxconn and talk of unemployment rates.

Dems accused Republicans of making the largest cut to education funding in state history, coming up short on filling the hole and only embracing the sparsity aid package now because it’s an election year.

Republicans countered they gave schools tools through Act 10 to fill that first cut. They also said Doyle cut state aid and used one-time federal stimulus money to backfill it, and the GOP has had to clean it all up over the past seven years, including the largest increase in state aid in Wisconsin history.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, accused Dems of talking up their support for education, but falling short when given the opportunity to support the $636 million increase included in the 2017-19 budget. He said Dems should thank Republicans for the sparsity aid bill so they would have the opportunity to finally support education.

“You’re on record voting against public education in the last budget,” Olsen said.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said Republicans should have invested even more in education when they had the chance.

The budget that cleared the Legislature included proposals similar to the provisions in today’s bill. But the guv vetoed the plan.

“It shouldn’t be about election-year politics; it should be about doing the right thing every time for our children,” she said.

Under the bill, the per-pupil sparsity aid payment would go up $100 to $400 starting in the 2018-19 school year. Districts with a maximum of 745 students with a population density of less than 10 per square mile would qualify.

Currently, low-revenue districts are capped at spending $9,100 per student between state aid and property taxes. The bill would boost that to $9,400 in the 2018-19 school year and then allow increases of $100 a year until hitting $9,800 in 2022-23.

Districts would not be eligible if their voters rejected a referendum to exceed spending caps in the previous three years, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified nine districts that would not qualify because of that.

The JFC added an amendment that would allow those with a failed referendum to present another one to voters. If successful, they would then qualify.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates eligible districts could raise another $15.6 million through property taxes in 2018-19.

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JFC Holds Public Hearing Last Night, Will Exec AB 835/SB 690 Today

By John Forester | February 8, 2018

At a public hearing last night before the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), the SAA strongly supported SB 690 relating to increasing sparsity aid and the low revenue ceiling for school districts.  The SAA also raised concerns about the “failed operating referendum” provision in the bill and expressed support for an ongoing effort to amend that language.

Hats off to Superintendents Bruggink (Oostburg), McNulty (Mukwonago), and Sievers (Slinger), as well as Oak Creek-Franklin Business Manager Andrew Chromy, for their outstanding testimony in support of the bill last night.

The JFC will reconvene today to exec several bills including AB 835/SB 690.  We expect lop-sided and bipartisan passage of the bill by JFC.  This action will generate significant momentum for ultimate passage of the bill in both houses.

SAA members are encouraged to contact their legislators again in support of the bill.  Let’s get this important bill across the finish line.  Stay tuned.

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SB 690 to Receive Hearing in JFC

By John Forester | February 6, 2018

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 690, relating to increasing sparsity aid and the low revenue ceiling for school districts, at 1:31pm on Wednesday, February 7th in Room 412 East, State Capitol.

If you should have any questions or need additional information, Please call the SAA office.  Stay tuned.

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Concurrent Enrollment Fix Moving in Capitol

By John Forester | February 2, 2018

Assembly Bill 805, the concurrent enrollment fix, cleared the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities yesterday on a unanimous 13-0 vote. Earlier today we reported that Senate Bill 677, the Senate companion, will receive a public hearing before the Senate Education Committee at 9:00am on Tuesday,  February 6th in the State Capitol.

Stay tuned.

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Concurrent Enrollment Fix to Receive Senate Hearing

By John Forester | February 2, 2018

Senate Bill 677, the Senate companion to Assembly Bill 805, will receive a public hearing before the Senate Education Committee at 9:00am on Tuesday February 6th in Room 300 Southeast, State Capitol.

As you know, the Early College Credit Program (ECCP) adopted in the 2017-19 State Budget significantly altered the funding model for concurrent enrollment programs at UW System campuses and private colleges.  The old system was a shared funding model with K12 school districts absorbing the staffing costs and the post-secondary institutions providing the accreditation and accountability.  Parents then received access to college credits at reduced cost.

However, the new ECCP program requires school districts to pick up 75% of the costs, with the state picking up 25%.  The new funding burden for school districts will likely end this effective program.

SB 677/AB 805 would exempt concurrent enrollment programs at UW System schools and private colleges from the new ECCP requirements.  The SAA is supporting this legislation, as is the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance (SWSA), the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).  The bill has bipartisan support in the legislature.

The SAA will keep you informed of this important effort.

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AB 835 Clears Assembly Committee 14-1

By John Forester | February 2, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

The Assembly Education Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would increase sparsity aid and low-revenue ceilings for school districts, while leaving the door open to amending the bill in Joint Finance.

The committee voted 14-1 to pass the bill, authored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and championed by Gov. Scott Walker, that would gradually lift the low revenue cap and pump $6.4 million into sparsity aid. Only Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, voted against it.

The bill is a near replica of an Assembly GOP plan that Walker vetoed out of the budget. But it contains one important change: Nine school districts where voters have rejected a referendum raising revenue limits in the previous three years would not be eligible for the increase.

But Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, today said he was working on an amendment to address that.

“I and a number of people working through these bills are … working with an amendment that the governor would agree with to help those 9 school districts out,” Mursau said. “It’s pretty important to all of us to get that done, but also to get something that the governor would sign.”

He said he would not introduce the amendment until he’s sure Walker would sign off on it, although he said he’s spoken to both JFC co-chairs, who have expressed openness to it. Mursau told WisPolitics he has not yet spoken with Walker.

Other Republicans on the committee, such as Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, contended that it’s most important the bill be able to pass.

Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg declined to discuss any amendment, but said that Walker supports the bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee rejected two Dem amendments, including one from Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, that sought to address those nine districts by eliminating the provision in the bill that would temporarily bar nine districts from raising their low-revenue caps.

“It punishes districts for doing the right thing and yet not knowing that the unintended consequences … was going to be harmful. I think we’re kind of cheating by doing this,” she said.

The second, offered by Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, would have altered the sparsity aid formula to allow 52 more school districts to become eligible. Currently, schools are eligible for sparsity aid if they have fewer than 745 students and their enrollment divided by the school district’s total square miles is less than 10. Bowen’s amendment would have eliminated the latter provision.

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